It has now been 17 months since the lunacy better known as governance of public education from kindergarten through twelfth grade began. That goes back to March 2016 when state school chief Tommy Bice suddenly resigned and set in motion an endless controversy about the hiring process for a new superintendent and his job performance.
But actually you have to go back even farther, to July 2015 when Governor Robert Bentley put a totally unqualified person on the state school board in Matt Brown of Baldwin County. Brown had no record of concern for public education. In fact, he never attended public schools and led a successful effort earlier in 2015 to defeat a tax vote to benefit Baldwin County schools.
Just the kind of guy you want to have on the state school board right? Bentley thought so–though no educators in Baldwin County agreed with him.
As things unfolded, this appointment was critical when the board voted to hire Mike Sentance as state superintendent in August 2016. By then, Brown was a lame duck board member, having lost his election earlier in the year. So he was voting for someone he would barely serve with.
And sure enough when Aug. 11, 2016 rolled around and the state board voted to hire Sentance, it was Matt Brown who nominated him the first time. He voted for him on the first ballot, but his side was one vote shy of the necessary five votes. When Mary Scott Hunter nominated Sentance on the seventh ballot, Brown was one of the five votes to make him the next superintendent. Fact is, Brown didn’t vote for anyone but Sentance.
Bentley, Brown’s patron saint, was another of the five votes Sentance needed. Bentley only voted for one other applicant, Jeana Ross, a member of his cabinet.
So thanks to Governor Bentley and his appointee, Alabama had a new school superintendent, in spite of the fact that he had scant qualifications for the job and didn’t even meet requirements called for by Alabama code.
As all of Alabama knows now too well, Bentley was out of touch with reality. Even when he was forced to step down due to a threat of an investigation into misusing his office and gave his brief farewell address, that fact that he acted as if he decided to go back to private life because his work as governor was done, showed one and all that he was living in a world few others inhabited. And when he recently proclaimed that he was the greatest governor we’ve ever had, he again put front and center how delusional he had become.
Bentley’s insistence that since Sentance came from Massachusetts and they have the highest 4th grade math scores in the country so we should hire him was another example of his fantasy world. He might as well have said that since he lives in Tuscaloosa where Nick Saban lives, he could coach just like Saban does. (But considering that he thinks he is the best governor we’ve ever had, maybe he really DOES think this.)
The point being that it was the support of both Robert Bentley and his appointed board member that gave us Mike Sentance. Now they are both gone, but their misguided vote lives on.
Governor Ivey has made it clear that she wants to “clean up” state government and straighten out some of the poor decisions her predecessor left behind. If she is honest about her intentions, the first place she should start is at the very top of the leadership of the state department of education.